Developing an evaluative language for history
A common problem that often leads students to private teaching is an inquiry beginning ‘I cannot get higher than level three in my submitted work’. Of course, was we all know the route to progress is greater analysis, students are trapped in a content driven approach and locked into factual content. Its is very easy to say ‘write less, say more’ but that doesn’t explain the path forward for either the higher levels of GCSE or A level where questions that focus on ‘assess the view’ ‘how far does the evidence support’ and ‘how far do you agree with the view’
In looking to empower the student I am always wary of a ‘one size fits all’ approach, I normally ask what the approach of the classroom teacher is, and I am often concerned about overly complex approaches, after all the demands of the question are complex enough and we need to free up students to think not give them more to do.
Remember – mark schemes call for sufficient factual evidence to support an evaluation, sufficient is not extensive!
Here are a few ideas that I regularly use in my teaching – they will be familiar to all, can I say the Hodder education produce very good guides that do all of this and more – take a look on their website!
- In assessing avoid value by content (VBC) this takes you back into the sources or essay points, students will repeat points already developed.
- ‘so NOT what does it say – but INSTEAD what does it mean’ (for the historian)
- Above all significance – this is significant because…
- This historian focuses on …. Whereas…
- This example refutes the interpretation that…
- The significance of this is…
- This argument rests on the premise that, however….
- This interpretation can be questioned on the basis that…
- Greater significance is placed on …. Conversely it can be argued that
As a general rule there should be evaluation throughout. Students will often ask me ‘if I have consistently evaluated my points (factors or criteria) throughout then how do I approach a conclusion?’
‘The wood and the trees’ in the main body of your answer you have been evaluating each factor singly, a conclusion will evaluate IN TOTALITY. A conclusion should emerge from the evaluate comments present throughout – it could be quite short if there is a strong element of analysis present throughout – that takes courage on behalf of the student, knowing when to stop.
We should be looking for approaches that saves time, not demands more of it, time is the greatest enemy in exams and examiners reports frequently lament that lack of planning seen in student’s scripts. A five-minute plan can help the student focus but again many students will plough ahead without one leading to ‘as I have previously said…’
It’s a bit like the cube on TV – SIMPLIFY !